Rape. Sexual assault. Harassment. These are scary words, so much so that when these topics come up, we’re scared to use them. What’s even scarier than using these words is having to experience them as actions. Which is why it’s so fucking ridiculous that we as a society ridicule and shame men and women who are brave enough to tell us their stories of survival. The most recent examples of this are the groups of women who have come forward to address Harvey Weinstein’s sexual perversions. They, of course, are not the first women to tell their truth about rape, assault, and harassment committed by a man in power. Judges, politicians, CEOs, producers, and even Presidents fall into this category. One thing remains consistent time and time again, and that is we do not believe their stories.
My question is why? Why would you not believe them? There is the argument of “If they were raped/assaulted/harassed, why didn’t they speak out when it occurred?” Why would they speak out? Harvey Weinstein is one of Hollywood’s most successful producers, and having him on your side would skyrocket any aspiring actor’s career. The trouble with men like this is that they are a forced to be reckoned with – as in, you cross him and your career is over. What a lot of people don’t understand is just how intimidating men like Harvey Weinstein can be. In general, when a woman (or man) is cornered by unwanted advances, it can be horribly uncomfortable and terrifying. That terror and discomfort is amplified tenfold when the advances are coming from a man who could single handedly ruin your reputation and make it impossible to find work. The reason these actresses did not come forward sooner was because they knew that A. people probably wouldn’t believe them, as they don’t with most rape/assault/harassment cases, and B. if they spoke up against one of the most powerful men in their industry, they would be out of work. While we think that celebrities have it all, they certainly don’t deserve to be pushed out of their own craft for being victims of sexual assault.
What’s more, I find it horribly alarming that with these actresses coming forward to tell us their stories of survival, I have seen an increase in victim and slut shaming. The other day, I saw a tweet that said something along the lines of “you know why I haven’t been raped? It’s because I don’t act or dress promiscuously like girls are doing these days” (I tried looking for the actual tweet, but alas it got lost in my twitter feed). You might ask yourself, “Why are tweets like this popping up on her feed? What kinds of people does this girl follow?” Well, the reason I saw it was because it was quoted by someone, and my friend retweeted that tweet. The response to the initial tweet was this: “I was raped when I was 7 years old while wearing a long sleeve shirt and overalls. Delete this.” Which made me go on to think, why on God’s green earth are we slut shaming women are are victims of rape. Why are we still doing this? Why can’t we just believe them and support them. It takes more energy to go out of our way to shame them for being victims than it does to simply say “I believe you” or “What can I do for you?” or even simply “I love you”.
My request to you, reader, is that if anyone comes to you and confides in you that they are survivors of rape, sexual assault, or harassment, is that you believe them. They are going through enough already, they don’t need your judgement. All they need is a friend who can prove to them that hope is not lost, and they are worth more than the way they were treated.